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From Casper to Cheyenne, long-time community partners fight food insecurity

Two people in fluorescent orange vests load a cardboard box into a car.
David Dudley
Wyoming Public Media
St. Joseph's Food Pantry volunteers Tim Bolin (left) and Norm Morris load food into a family's SUV.

It's Wednesday morning and there's already a line of cars wrapped around the block near downtown Cheyenne. They're waiting for the St. Joseph's Food Pantry to open to get food boxes.

While some experts say inflation is cooling, a new report from the Federal Reserve Economic Data shows that gas, rent and food prices remain high.

So that means food insecurity is on the rise as well. Roughly one in nine Wyomingites go hungry because they can't afford groceries, according to The Food Bank of Wyoming.

Rachel Rodriguez, a retired substitute teacher, is among those waiting at the pantry. She lives with her two adult sons. Money is tight. There's not enough food to go around. So, Rodriguez visits the pantry weekly.

"That's the food I eat for the next week," said Rodriguez. "We make do with what the Lord provides."

St. Joseph's Food Pantry has been partnered with the Food Bank of Wyoming since the 1980s. The Food Bank delivers supplies to St. Josephs, which distributes the food to those who need it.

Food Pantry Director Eva Estorga said that the lines of vehicles have gotten longer since the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We have seen a change to more people coming," said Estorga. "Even now, we serve anywhere from 550 to 600 families a week."

That's more than 2,000 families a month. They couldn't meet that need without their partners at the Food Bank of Wyoming, Estorga added.

Rachel Bailey, the executive director of the Food Bank of Wyoming, said that food insecurity is only increasing.

"We gave 11 million pounds of food to families across the state last year," Bailey said. "That's a nine percent increase from the year before. We gave more than one million pounds of food to St. Joseph's alone [last year]."

St. Joseph's Food Pantry is one of the Food Bank's largest distribution hubs in the state. A significant portion of donations come from the Walmart distribution center in Cheyenne.

Families receive a box of nonperishable items like beans and pastas, peanut butter and jelly, and canned vegetables. They also receive a box of fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, chicken and pizza.

"I do this because I love to see people happy and healthy," Estorga said. "I just love to help people."

Estorga invited anyone who needs a food box to come to St. Joseph's Food Pantry. They're open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 12:50 p.m.

This reporting was made possible by a grant from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting, supporting state government coverage in the state. Wyoming Public Media and Jackson Hole Community Radio are partnering to cover state issues both on air and online.

David Dudley is an award-winning journalist who has written for The Guardian, The Christian Science Monitor, High Country News, WyoFile, and the Wyoming Truth, among many others. David was a Guggenheim Crime in America Fellow at John Jay College from 2020-2023. During the past 10 years, David has covered city and state government, business, economics and public safety beats for various publications. He lives in Cheyenne with his family.

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